Gamma World was well represented in the Ares Section, frequently presenting articles penned by creator James Ward, which I appreciated, given my obsession with official-dom. One of my favorite articles from Ward was published in issue 88 (August 1984), called "Before the Dark Years." It presents a historical timeline of the Gamma World setting, beginning (as all post-apocalyptic timelines do) in 1945 with the first use of nuclear weapons and ending in 2450, which was the approximate start of the 2nd edition of the game (1st edition began later, in 2471 -- why the change, I wonder?).
It's true that the article appealed to me back then because it scratched a completist urge to know it all, an urge I have long since -- and happily -- abandoned. But back then it was simply awesome to know, for example, that the starship Warden was launched in 2290. Re-reading the article, I still love it, but for rather different reasons. I like it for entries like this one:
2322 – Procesed-iced asteroid (guidance circuits damaged by terrorists) strikes Mars; eight-year duststorm and climatic disruption result. All colonies on planet isolated; Federation charter suspended for the duration.Or this one:
2331 – Trans-Plutonian Shipywards assume control of their own programs and generate robotic "life."The reason I love entries like these is that they hit home that Gamma World's apocalypse doesn't happen in the here and now but in a science fictional future. That ought to be obvious, given the presence Mark VII blasters and black ray guns and so forth, but, somehow, it's easy to forget, perhaps because, in the 70s and 80s, worrying about the End of All Things focused on the present, not the future. Indeed, lots of people didn't think there would be a future, thanks to the Damoclean threat of Armageddon.
As I noted recently, my preferred way to play Gamma World is to treat the post-apocalyptic world as largely a blank slate, one utterly unfamiliar to the characters, who not only grew up generations removed form the Fall, but are played by people for whom even the pre-Fall world is alien. That pre-Fall world included settlements on the Moon, Mars, and elsewhere, is supported by robots, cyborgs, and A.I.s, and is launching extra-solar colonization efforts. That creates a lot of scope for terrific adventures and campaigns; I might even go so far as to say that, as developed in this and other articles, Gamma World provides a canvas every bit as large as that offered by Dungeons & Dragons. Sadly, the game has largely been treated as a joke by its custodians over the years, its full potential never quite realized and that's too bad.